TEXAS VIEW: Another low moment for Ken Paxton

THE POINT: The attorney general revealed his character once more when he fled process server.

Ken Paxton has a lot to run from. The Texas attorney general’s escape from a process server at his home last week would be comical if it wasn’t such a pitiable symbol of his serious shortcomings.

Paxton is named in a lawsuit about whether nonprofit groups can help Texans pay to get abortions out of state. He claims that he didn’t know that the man who arrived at his front door in McKinney, Ernesto Martin Herrera, was delivering a subpoena in that case. Paxton said he was threatened by a “strange man.”

But court records challenge that claim. The Texas Tribune reported last Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ attorneys had been in contact with Paxton’s office for days before this episode, offering to serve the subpoena through Assistant Attorney General Amy Hilton, debating the details of service, and asking for Paxton’s whereabouts so Herrera could do his job. Even as Herrera waited for an hour outside Paxton’s home, the plaintiffs’ attorneys were in communication with Paxton’s office about it.

In a sworn affidavit, Herrera said he knocked on the door and told Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, that he was there to deliver legal documents to her husband. The attorney general disputes this, saying Herrera didn’t introduce himself but charged at Paxton yelling unintelligibly. It doesn’t make much sense that the attorney general wouldn’t be aware of the effort to serve the subpoena.

Paxton’s claim is also belied by his own actions. If he was really fearful for his safety, the most obvious course of action would have been to go inside, keep himself and his wife inside and call the police, who would have responded quickly to a threat against a high-ranking state official. Instead, Paxton apparently didn’t call police, and eventually left the house, diving into the back seat of a Chevy Tahoe driven by his wife while Herrera tried to speak with him.

After he was safely out of the presence of that menacing subpoena, Paxton rediscovered his bluster, saying Herrera was “lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force.” It’s a lousy bully who threatens violence after the confrontation is over.

Paxton’s credibility is already deeply tarnished by the other things he’s running from: a felony indictment, an FBI investigation, and allegations of bribery by his own staff. That baggage makes it harder and harder for Texans to believe his version of events. Like the 374-page internal report Paxton issued last August, which asserted his innocence against all charges of corruption, this whole story raises eyebrows. We wish it weren’t this way.

We can’t say for sure what was going through Paxton’s head when he saw Herrera outside his home. But we’ll tell readers what’s going through ours: Texas deserves an attorney general who can stand on his own property without fear that his own dubious choices and ethics are going to catch up to him.

Dallas Morning News